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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Legal and Constitutional Affairs

Issue 3 - Evidence

Ottawa, Thursday, December 14, 1995


The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, to which was referred Bill C-7, respecting the control of certain drugs, their precursors and other substances and to amend certain other acts and repeal the Narcotic Control Act in consequence thereof, met this day, at 9:30 a.m., to give consideration to the bill.

Senator Gérald-A. Beaudoin (Chairman) in the Chair.

The Chairman: Honourable senators, we have with us this morning Mr. Eugene Oscapella, Barrister and Solicitor; Madam Diane Riley, Mr. Glenn Gilmour and Mr. Benedikt Fischer.

I invite you to make your presentations.

Mr. Eugene Oscapella, Barrister and Solicitor, Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy: Thank, Mr. Chairman. We would like to make our presentation and leave ample time for questioning because we think it is very important to have a good exchange of views on this issue.

I should like to address four themes today, and Dr. Riley will expand on some of them. We would be pleased to discuss other aspects of the drug policy in Bill C-7 as well, but I will focus on these for now.

The first theme is how this bill will cause the very violence which the Government of Canada professes to be striving to prevent, without resolving the problems of drug use and drug abuse in our society.

I know that this committee deliberated over the gun control bill and I would like to talk about the impact of our drug laws on the importation of illegal firearms into this country.

The second theme is how Bill C-7 will contribute to the spread of HIV, AIDS, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, all of which can be lethal.

In short, I would like to discuss how our drug policies will kill thousands of Canadians - not only drug users but people far removed from the drug trade - over the coming years.

I should like to discuss as well how Canada's international obligations perhaps do not require us, as various government departments have argued, to heavy-handedly apply the criminal law.

Finally, I should like to address the claim made by many members of the government that there are few alternatives and that we must use the criminal law if we are to deal with this problem.

We are here in an entirely non-partisan fashion. We were concerned about this legislation when it was introduced as Bill C-85. We remain concerned about it as Bill C-7. Our objectives are not in any way partisan.

We have prepared quite a substantial briefing document. Unfortunately, we have no funds for translation. I understand that since it is not translated we are not allowed to distribute it to the committee. However, there are copies at the back of the room. The document contains many articles from magazines, periodicals and other literature. We hope that you will take the opportunity to review this information. We apologize for the fact that it has not been translated. We hope that the committee may be able to arrange for some of the material to be translated.

I would like to talk about violence related to the drug trade. I stress that this is violence related to prohibition. It is not violence related to people using drugs; it is violence related to the illegal trade in drugs fostered by prohibition.

I shall give examples from close to home. We all spend much time in Ottawa. I have lived here for 21 years. Many of you have been in Ottawa for many years. In Cumberland, a town just outside at Ottawa, a man and his pregnant wife were murdered over a drug debt a few years ago. On March 24, 1994, at 180 Lees Avenue in Ottawa, a man was shot in the head over a drug debt. In 1994, about 15 minutes from here, another man was murdered over a drug debt.

Project Octopus was one of the most expensive joint forces operations in Ontario history. In 1989, a Nepean man named Jack Martin was murdered. He was shot 25 times. He was shot because he was going to inform on someone's drug dealing activities. This person had him murdered. The person who arranged the murder was himself murdered in 1992 in an argument over a drug debt with another drug dealer. The person who murdered him was subsequently murdered in a revenge killing.

That is the violence which prohibition is fostering. You may recall reports of the torture murder of a young man in Ottawa a few months ago. The police believe that the gangs involved in that murder are involved in the drug trade. These gangs are violent.

Operation Snipe, one of the largest joint forces operations in Canadian history, took place in eastern Ontario from April to September of 1995. Some 147 weapons were seized in this operation. About this, Ottawa-Carleton police chief Brian Ford said, "I have never seen a seizure of this many firearms in my career". This operation was seeking illegal firearms, stolen weapons and drug dealing. That is exactly what was found.

The Chief Superintendent of the OPP headquarters in Ontario said, "This is part of a violent subculture where guns and drugs go hand in hand. Machine guns are available virtually within eyesight of Parliament Hill".

In case you think that was a bit of hyperbole, I would like to read to you from a list of weapons that were seized in this raid. They included an M-1 assault carbine; a .9 millimetre semi- automatic handgun, with clips and a shoulder holster; a Chinese assault rifle; an M-1 and two .15 shot magazines; a Mach-2 machine pistol; an M-1 .30 calibre carbine and 15-round clip; a Chinese fully automatic assault rifle; a sawed-off .22 calibre Winchester with threaded barrel for a silencer; a .303 Enfield; and an FN fully automatic machine gun.

This is what prohibition does. It fosters an extraordinarily violent trade in a product which the law has made illegal. The law creates the black market. People step in to fill the void.

We know about the motorcycle gang wars in Montreal. They are essentially a fight over drug turf. They are not using guns as much anymore; they are using dynamite. Some 25 people have been murdered in the past few years in these turf wars.

In 1988, a study was done in New York of drug-related murders. There were 400 murders between October and April 1988. Of these, about 200 were drug-related. Many may think that these drug-related homicides were committed by people under the influence of drugs. In fact, that was the case in less than 5 per cent of the murders. The vast majority of them were committed by people engaged in the illegal drug trade fostered by prohibition.

Again, a small proportion of the murders were related to acquisitive crime, that is, people who are heavily dependent on drugs committing crimes in order to feed their habits.

In 1989, there were over 400 murders in Washington D.C., the capital city of the most powerful nation on earth. During the years of the Bush administration, from 1988 to 1992, between one-third and one-half of the murders in Washington were related to the illegal trade in drugs, an illegal trade that exists only because we criminalize drugs.

The World Health Organization estimates that the illegal drug trade is worth about $400 billion annually, second only to the arms trade.

The European Banking Federation published a report earlier this autumn on Canadian banks. Canadian banks have more robberies per capita than banks in any other country of the world. The European Banking Federation concluded that more than half these bank robberies were committed by people who wanted money to pay the inflated black market price of drugs. I do not know where the banking federation obtained these statistics.

There is also violence associated with the enforcement of our drug laws. The police, under the orders of parliamentarians, are bashing down doors, occasionally harming people and occasionally killing people, to counter what is obviously a very violent and illicit trade in drugs. This is the product of prohibition; it is not the product of drugs themselves.

Prohibition is corrupting and killing innocent victims. This is not just about criminals shooting each other. Innocent Canadians are getting caught in the middle and innocent Canadians are becoming terrified.

I mentioned a drug execution which took place in Ottawa in 1994. The victim was shot in the head in an apartment building about a 25-minute walk from here. I wonder how many of the elderly inhabitants of that apartment building take any comfort from the fact that it was a drug-related murder. They are probably terrified. This adds to the sense of brutalization that is affecting our society today.

I would next like to deal with how our drug laws and policies are contributing to the spread of HIV infection. Many may think this is a concern only for drug users - it is not. If drug users become infected with HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C, people who have no connection whatsoever to the drug-using community will also become infected. This means that not only drug users die, as some people claim they deserve. It means that this problem affects all Canadians.

Prohibition of drugs drives up the price of them, which means that drug habits may costs several thousand dollars a week to maintain. As a result, addicts use drugs in the most efficient means possible. Rather than ingesting them orally or nasally - snorting as it is called - they may inject. Injecting with a dirty needle carries the risk of infection of HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

To maintain their drug habits, many people turn to the sex trade. We know that sex workers are being paid more to have sex without a condom. It they are desperate to obtain the money to pay the inflated black market price of drugs, they will take the long-term risk of infection for the short-term gain of getting enough money to buy those drugs.

We know that people are going to shooting galleries because they do not want to be caught on the street with drugs or syringes, for which they could, of course, be arrested, because the possession of drugs is illegal. Shooting galleries are drug users' equivalent to a tavern or bar. In these shooting galleries they are supplied with drugs and syringes. The syringes may be contaminated and the user may become infected.

Drug users commit acquisitive crimes - they rob banks, break into cars and commit burglaries - in order to get the money to pay for drugs. Many of these people end up in prison, as do many low-level drug traffickers who traffic in order to maintain their own habits, not because they are inherently evil people. In prison they will continue to use drugs. There is not a prison in this country where drugs are not available. They will continue to use drugs and they will not have the means necessary to prevent HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection.

I should like to provide you with some figures in this regard. At the Prison for Women in Kingston, 90 per cent of the women agreed to be tested for hepatitis C. Some 40 per cent of those women tested positive for hepatitis C. At Joyceville penitentiary, another federal institution near Kingston, some 28 per cent of the inmates who were tested, tested positive for hepatitis C. At a B.C. institution, the figure was 28 per cent. That is what is happening in our prisons. That is what we are causing when we put drug users in jail.

Stanley de Vlaming is a Vancouver physician who has a large clientele of drug users. He works in the area of Vancouver known as the downtown east side. Although he cannot give clear statistical evidence, he says that 38 of his methadone patients are HIV positive. That is an HIV positive rate of 63 per cent.

Even if you did not care about lives, you would have to care about dollars. It costs over $100,000 to keep someone alive who is HIV positive. Thirty-eight people times $100,000 is almost $4 million.

Dr. de Vlaming estimates that 90 per cent of his methadone patients are positive for hepatitis C.

I stress that HIV infection will spread to the general population. There has been an explosion in HIV among injection drug users in Vancouver.

Prohibition is not helping people. It will kill these people, and there is not doubt that infection will spread to the general population of this country. If we do not take care of the drug users; if we do not rethink the policies that are increasing the risk of HIV and hepatitis C infection, more people will die. I do not think that is the appropriate role for the Government of Canada to play.

I should next like to deal with treaty obligations. We have often been told that our treaty obligations require us to use the criminal law. Glenn Gilmour, Diane Riley and Benedikt Fischer have done research on this. This is not my area of expertise, but my understanding is that these treaties are not as narrow as they are presented to this committee to be by organizations within the Government of Canada.

Furthermore, we also have international human rights conventions which provide the right to life, liberty and security of the person. Those words are also reflected in our own Constitution. They provide protection against cruel and unusual punishment. What can be more cruel than putting people into prison where they run a very high risk of dying from infection contracted there? These international conventions provide a right to privacy. Perhaps the government should not have such a strong role in the private behaviour of its citizens.

International human rights treaties should be given some weight as well as the narcotic control treaties which have been put forward so frequently in this debate.

If these treaties are forcing Canada to take measures that are killing people, that are breeding violence, that are fostering a massive international illicit trade in narcotics, why do we remain party to them? I do not accept the excuse that we cannot back out. We have to rethink this.

Mr. Chairman, I know that you are a constitutional law expert. I hope the wheels are turning as I say this. I believe it is possible to rethink some of these treaties. We cannot continue to proceed blindly on the basis that a treaty obliges us to do something. We have to rethink the impact of these treaties on our people.

Finally, when the bill received third reading in the House of Commons, Dr. Hedy Fry said that drugs and drug abuse are basically social and health problems. I could not agree with her more.

She continued to say that they find their way into the criminal justice system, not because they naturally and necessarily belong there, but because we have yet to devise a better means of control. I could not disagree with her more on that point.

Dr. Riley has before her just a few of the documents that deal with alternatives to prohibition.

Yesterday morning, I called the Lindes Smith Centre in New York City, which has very generously been helping us with funding for our organization. They sent me a list of 50 articles and publications, some of which are repeated here, dealing with alternatives to prohibition. There are alternatives. Switzerland is doing heroin maintenance programs, as are the Netherlands, Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy. There are alternatives. Why is Canada focusing on prohibition?

It is very difficult to accept the government's statement that it is concerned about drug users when it is turning them into criminals. It is not necessary to turn drug users into criminals. It helps no one. It brutalizes our society and costs an enormous amount of money.

The United States is undoubtedly behind many of the prohibitionist drug policies in the world. Yet, the United States stops only between 10 and 15 per cent of the illegal drugs coming across its borders. Despite the use of the military, the rhetoric, and all the laws of the United States, importing drugs into the United States is a relatively easy job. The same can be said of Canada. We stop perhaps 10 per cent of the illegal drugs destined for this country. Plainly and simply, prohibition does not work. It does not stop the flow of drugs into Canada and it does not stop people from using drugs.

If you approve this bill, you are supporting the very violence that you sought to prevent with the gun control legislation. If you support this bill, you will perpetuate the conditions that will kill thousands of Canadians, drug users and non-users alike, through the spread of HIV infection, hepatitis B and C, and through drug overdoses caused by drugs of unknown potency or adulterated drugs.

You will be ignoring measures being introduced in other democratic countries to reduce the harms associated with drug use. You will not be modernizing the law, as some people claim; you will simply be modernizing the mistakes.

Canada needs an honest, open, non-partisan reassessment of its drug laws and policies. More of the same, more of what has not worked, more of what is not working, more of what will not work, is not the answer.

Dr. Diane Riley, Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy: With the help of some overheads, I shall discuss in more detail some of the issues raised by Eugene Oscapella.

I will not spend much time talking about the situation in the United States, but I did want to show graphically some of the points to which Eugene referred as a preamble to what I will focus on.

I shall first briefly touch on some issues around prohibition and its relationship to violence and to AIDS and other infections. Then I will speak in more detail about some alternatives used around the world. This is the area in which I have worked for the last 23 years. I am a professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto.

AIDS made its appearance when I was involved with research and treatment of drug users in the early 1980s. I became involved with AIDS and realized that the only way to stop its spread and to deal effectively with it and other infections is to look at the policy and the law which promotes the spread of these infections. I shall go into that in detail.

The material at the back of the room, including a book which I have written, The Harm Reduction Model, which is available in both French and English, gives an overview of the harm reduction approach and presents some examples from around the world.

This overhead highlights some of the things which Eugene pointed out. Many billions of dollars were spent on prohibition in the United States under President Bush, and that is being continued under President Clinton. Nonetheless, as you will see from the next overhead, the majority of murders in Washington, D.C. are related to the drug trade. All of that money has not prevented that.

Particularly startling is that of the more than 1 million Americans in incarceration, mostly for drug-related offences, many of them are black and Latino. This, despite the fact that the majority of drug users in the United States are white. We are starting to see this kind of racial discrepancy in arrests here in Canada.

With more than 1 million U.S. citizens in prison, the crime rate is still going up. It is estimated that in order to enforce the prohibitionist drug laws in the United States, they will need to build a prison a month until the end of the century.

That is the kind of approach that Bill C-7 is advocating. The approach in the United States has certainly not slowed the killings - it has exacerbated them. As Eugene Oscapella was pointing out, prohibition sets up territories because there is a commodity. If we put cigarettes on the black market, as some places are starting to do, they would become a commodity for which people would kill. We have seen this throughout history. There have been tea, opium and tulip bulb wars.

By 1991, one in three AIDS cases in the United States was related to injection drug use. It is estimated that 70 per cent of new HIV infections in the United States in the last two years were as a result of injection drug use. Although in Canada the proportion of AIDS cases related to injection drug use is still less than 10 per cent overall, we must remember that when talking about AIDS we are talking about what happened 10 or 15 years ago.

We need to look at HIV rates to see what is happening now. HIV rates are deeply distressing. HIV rates among drug users are 20 per cent or higher in Montreal and 10 per cent in Ottawa, which probably comes as a great surprise to many of us. We have the highest rate of new cases of HIV in injection drug users of any North American city, including New York. That makes me both ashamed and concerned for the future of our children.

I wish now to talk about alternatives. Harm reduction is an approach which, as Eugene Oscapella mentioned, has been adopted around the world. There are examples of harm reduction approaches in the material which we have provided. It is being used in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and Australia, which is particularly relevant to us here in Canada. Like us, Australia is part of the Commonwealth. It has moved from an essentially prohibitionist stance to a much more harm reduction stance. It is much more humane. It has decriminalized marijuana in a number of states. It has seen a rapid expansion of its methadone programs. It cautions drug users rather than arresting them.

To emphasize a point that was made yesterday, Bill C-7 still criminalizes the possession of marijuana. The idea that has been propogated by the Departments of Justice and Health that you have no criminal record simply because you are not fingerprinted is very misleading and dangerous. If you lie at the border or in an employment application about having a criminal record, that in itself is a serious offence. We should not be misled by that rhetoric.

In Canada, we have a harm reduction approach in our drug strategy. It is an approach which I think is best summed up by the British statement when they adopted harm reduction as their national policy. They said, "We have no hesitation in concluding that the spread of HIV is a greater threat to public health than is drug misuse". The World Health Organization has since echoed that sentiment. Officially, at least, in Canada, our drug strategy is one of harm reduction, a coordinated effort to reduce the harm caused by alcohol and other drugs to individuals, families and communities. Yet, Bill C-7, a product of Canada's drug strategy, is working at odds with this stated purpose.

What is going on here? Where is our coordination? I think we need to address those issues.

Very often we become confused by the use of terminology and assume that there are only two extremes, that there is either prohibition or free market legalization. Nothing could be further from the truth. In between there are all sorts of levels of decriminalization, medicalization, controlled availability, different kinds of legalization, different outlets and so forth. It is these, through harm reduction, which we want to explore.

None of us want to legalize all drugs tomorrow. That would be foolish and dangerous. We are not talking about that. We are talking about looking at alternatives that are now in practice around the world. In some places, such as the United Kingdom, they have been in place since the beginning of the century. These are examples that we can study to learn how our system can be more cost effective, save lives and produce a better society. Prohibition is not producing the kind of society in which I want to live or in which I want my children or anyone else's children to live. It is brutalizing society.

I am sure you are all familiar with Vince Kane's report on illicit and narcotic overdose deaths in British Columbia. Vince Kane, a high-ranking official of the RCMP, did a study of these deaths. As chief coroner of B.C., he was most concerned about the alarming number of deaths. There were over 300 such deaths in 1993.

He studied the rate of overdose deaths in both males and females in the B.C. area. Many of these overdose deaths involve the high grade heroin which is coming in as a result of the markets which have been set up by the warring between the different cartels in B.C. and Toronto. None of the deaths were as a result of pure heroin. Just about all of them involved alcohol. After two years of study on this issue, Vince Kane said quite clearly that these are deaths due to poverty. These are deaths due to marginalization and deaths due to our drug laws. He recommends in his report that we adopt a harm reduction approach, including the decriminalization or medicalization of a number of drugs.

To bring the message home, as this slide shows, the leading causes of death in young females is illicit drug use and breast cancer. For males, the statistics are even more startling. AIDS and illicit drug use are the major killers of young males in B.C.

The situation is not much prettier in the rest of Canada. Last year's figures for HIV rates among injection drug users are as follows: 6 per cent to 7 per cent in B.C.; 7 per cent to 9 per cent in Toronto; and between 10 per cent and 20 per cent or higher in Montreal. The World Health Organization has said quite clearly that once the level of infection of HIV gets above 10 per cent in the injection drug-using population, you have an explosive epidemic on your hands for your entire population.

I do not want to be a doomsayer. We are talking about alternatives. The data for HIV among gay and bisexual communities in B.C. shows that the rates in these populations were brought down nicely through education campaigns and safer sex. You will also see, however, that the rates for injection drug users is going up.

The statistics for this year illustrate an explosive situation. The highest incidence of HIV in injection drug users anywhere in North America is found in Montreal and Ottawa. You may be surprised to see that Ottawa has an 8.4 per cent rate while Quebec City has a rate of 10.1 per cent. I find it particularly surprising and startling that the Ottawa rates are already so very high.

As Eugene mentioned, the prison situation is worse. We have provided you with a copy of this report on the situation in prisons. It is not surprising, since the majority of inmates in Canadian prisons are there for drug-related offences, that the rates in prisons are extremely high.

These data are broken down by whether or not the person has a history of injection drug use. Many people report using drugs for the first time in prison. Many people report sharing syringes for the first time in prison. There is a documented case of more than 15 inmates being infected by the same syringe that was in circulation for ten years.

We are at the point now that, as is happening in Australia, people will be bringing legal suits against our correctional system.

The rates are particularly high for females in Quebec with a history of injection drug use. This reflects the situation outside prison. Drug users are being sent to prison for drug-related offences. We send them to an incubator.

Bleach was outlawed in prisons because people were using it to clean their needles. Now, under the direction of the expert committee on AIDS which wrote this report, bleach is more readily available, but it is very hard to get. Since having a syringe is an institutional offence, people will not be cleaning their syringes in the open.

Under the new drug testing programs in prisons, it is more likely that marijuana will be detected in urine, because it is detectible for 30 days. Therefore, inmates are turning to heroin and cocaine, which are less detectible. People are injecting to avoid detection of fumes by the guards.

We are creating an incubator in our prisons. We are familiar with the situation of unsafe sex and lack of access to condoms there.

Alternatives exist around the world. In Merseyside, there is in place comprehensive harm reduction programming which involves cautioning, rather than charging, by the police, and registration of drug users in order that they can legally carry drugs. The rate of HIV infection in the entire United Kingdom is less than 2 per cent. In Merseyside, it is 1 per cent. In Edinburgh, where, in an attempt to deal with the drug problem they instituted prohibition and removed syringes, the rate of infection rose from 2 per cent to more than 50 per cent in one year. That is now being brought down through intensive programming.

All around the world, harm reduction programs are keeping HIV rates down or bringing them back down. The most important thing is to bring those users back into society and treat them like human beings. We must recognize their need for help and the fact that their drug use is simply a symptom of the things that have happened to them, in the majority of cases.

The kids with whom I work in Toronto are usually street kids. They are not on the streets because they want to be. Believe me, on a night like last night they did not want to be there. Ninety per cent of them are there because they are physically, emotionally or sexually abused at home and they have nowhere else to go. If I were them, I would be using drugs too. On a cold night like last night, what else have they to do?

As you know, our services are being cut back; more so under the Harris government than ever before. Treatment waiting lists range from six months to more than two years in some cases. Methadone slots are one-one hundredth of what they should be. We have the nerve to tell people that they should be in treatment or getting help, yet there is nowhere for them to go. When they seek help, they are afraid to be picked up by the police.

Statements in Bill C-7, such as "a container is equal to the drug that is in it" make it more likely that people will dump their dirty syringes rather than properly using syringe exchanges. This is very frightening for people. Already people are being arrested for having syringes. This will only make it worse.

Finally, by expanding the realm of those things which are criminalized to amphetamines and the designer, rave drugs like Ecstasy, and to Khat, an indigenous drug used as part of a community ritual, we are only expanding the field to include many more young people who will have criminal records for simple possession, for doing things that you and I did, things that are part of growing up. They do this because they have no challenges. They have no life. In Toronto, for a challenge, the kids hang out around the Eaton Centre. Black kids get together to play soccer in Regent Park and are arrested because they are not wearing uniforms and it looks like a drug deal is going on.

The situation in Toronto is brutal. I am very concerned. I am concerned about what is happening to my friends; drug users, street people. I am concerned about what may happen to their children. Because of that, I seriously ask you, not only as a supposed expert in drug policy, but as a citizen and a human being, to stand back from this and look at the broader picture.

If we pass this bill, if we do not have a serious reassessment of drug policy and social policy in this country, we will go the way of the United States. We will go to hell in a handbasket in a very brutal and expensive way.

We have alternatives, and they are humane alternatives.

Senator DeWare: What are your recommendations to us besides simply not accepting the bill?

Mr. Oscapella: We would like an honest, open, objective, nonpartisan reassessment of Canadian drug policy. The Le Dain Commission did that 22 years ago. We never listened to Le Dain. When the bill was passed in the House of Commons, Mr. Simmons said that the Minister of Health had informally given her consent to have the Standing Committee on Health re-examine Canada's drug laws. It is fine to say that, but the proof is in the pudding. If the usual gang of suspects is on that committee, it will go nowhere. I hate to be that blunt, but if the review is done by the same people who are driving Canada's drug policy now, we will not change the system for the better.

There are other things which certainly could be done. Although I have never used marijuana myself, I continue to be appalled at the fact that we are prosecuting people for using it. It is a gross misapplication of the criminal law. The official Government of Canada statement about the criminal law is that it is to be used as an instrument of last resort. In drug policy, it is being used as an instrument of first resort. Why do we make it a criminal offence for someone to use marijuana? It makes no sense whatsoever. It is a waste of resources. We do not have the money in this country for important social programs, yet we are wasting perhaps billions of dollars on policing, prosecuting and incarcerating people who do not need to be policed, prosecuted or incarcerated.

That is my personal view. The foundation itself has not taken a firm position on this issue, simply because we want to open the debate. We are not trying to force the issue. We are trying to force rethinking. We think there are some excellent options available, but we are not suggesting the legalization of heroin. A tremendous amount of public education must take place before we can move this process, and education of the public is one of the things we are trying to achieve.

Mr. Benedikt Fischer, Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy: I wish to emphasize that a major comprehensive drug policy review in this country is necessary. As I stated yesterday, it is necessary to examine the role, the appropriateness and the status of the criminal law at the centre of this policy and to investigate the alternatives that are available.

We have identified three fundamental principles under which this policy review should take place. First, public health should be a guiding principle for a policy review on drug policy in Canada.

Second, rational pharmacology is an issue that should be looked at. As my colleague Harold Kalant pointed out yesterday, the law is based on scientifically illogical pharmacology. It does not make sense from any scientific point of view.

Third, cost effectiveness should be considered. There are about 40,000 criminal prosecutions for marijuana possession in this country each year. From the point of view of pharmacology, as well as public health, does it really make sense to prosecute 40,000 marijuana possession offences each year, giving people criminal records with all the harms associated with that?

These three principles should guide such a policy review. Again, a policy review can occur without fundamentally examining the role of criminal law and its appropriateness in such a comprehensive and challenging situation. As we have said, there are many alternatives available. It is not true that the international obligations have set up barriers to such alternatives. To the contrary, the 1988 convention explicitly encourages and enables signatories to institutionalize alternatives to criminal prosecution and criminal penalties. They point out treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration as alternatives to cruel punishment for substance possession offences. As a signatory to this 1988 treaty, we should take these opportunities seriously and investigate them, especially in light of the positive effects they have elicited in other jurisdictions, as pointed out by Ms Riley and Mr. Oscapella. We must explore that for the sake of public health in this country.

Senator DeWare: Is there more use of marijuana in Canada today than there was in the 1960s?

Mr. Fischer: No, certainly not.

Senator DeWare: Members of my family went through school at that time. I know there was a lot of marijuana use, although I do not know to this day whether they were involved because they will not tell me. However, I know personally as a mother, a friend and a neighbour there was a lot of use at that time.

Mr. Fischer: There was a lot of use of marijuana in the 1960s and it increased in the early 1970s. We are now at somewhat lower levels.

As my colleague Mr. Smart pointed out yesterday, there is concern about increasing rates now, especially among students. These trends are occurring in every western country of the world. Cannabis use is going up slightly in most western European countries among students as it has in the United States.

The development of these use trends is not in any way related to the harshness of the law. We cannot control the use of cannabis, or any other illegal drug, simply by increasing the severity of penalties that we are institutionalizing. People use drugs regardless of the severity of the penalties that have been instituted.

We must accept the fact that, along with education, measures such as rehabilitation, treatment and social services are important. We must enable people, especially students, to make rational decisions. Students in grades 9 or 11 do not really care about the severity of the law. They do not even understand the possible repercussions of a criminal record for the future of their lives or careers. We need other means. We need to educate and to rehabilitate or reintegrate drug users. This does not occur through the criminal law; it occurs through other means in social and medical services.

Mr. Oscapella: Senator DeWare, you were speaking of your role as a mother. I ask members of this committee how they would like their own children to be treated. Would you like the police to bust down the door, as they did in Ottawa, in enforcing the laws that our government told them they should enforce? The police shot someone in the darkness. He died several weeks later. He also had liver cancer, so we are not quite sure what killed him. However, I doubt that the bullet helped.

Do you want the police to bust down a door, perhaps with weapons drawn, to handcuff your children, and to take them away and charge them, thus giving them a criminal record? Is that what you want for your children and others you care about? If you do not want that for the people you care about, then how can you want it for the rest of the people in this country? That is exactly what we are doing with this law.

It is easy to speak of how to treat anonymous others, but that is not how we want our own kin to be treated. We have to look at the problem in that way.

Senator Doyle: You mentioned Le Dain. Do you know of any studies that have been done which would give us some indication of what the scene might be had the Le Dain recommendations been adopted back in the 1960s?

Mr. Fischer: There are a number of almost perfect studies, as I would call them, because they are not experiments. They are actual policy reforms which have taken place in a number of jurisdictions. I point to the harm reduction model in Great Britain. I point to the Australian reforms which have lessened the criminal status and the severity of penalties for marijuana possession. The Australians have instituted methadone maintenance for addicted heroin users. They are not criminalizing these uses any longer.

As a result, the indicators of health, the severe harms which have been traditionally associated with this kind of drug use, have significantly decreased and the public health aspects have been improved substantially in these jurisdictions. Drug use has not increased dramatically in these jurisdictions. It has not increased in the Netherlands or other jurisdictions.

The harm reduction measures which have been implemented there, which follow the spirit of the Le Dain commission recommendations, have substantially improved the situation with regard to these indicators of health and harm which they were trying to avoid. Studies are available in the form of these policy reforms which show us that improvements are possible.

Ms Riley: A couple of the papers found in the back of our binder document what has happened in the Netherlands, the states of the United States which have decriminalized, and also in the parts of Australia that have decriminalized. The findings show quite consistently that rates are no different in those states which decriminalized versus those that did not. The patterns seem to follow the same trend. Those states that did decriminalize saved tremendous amounts of money by doing so, not to mention the effect that it had of people being able to get jobs and so on because they did not have a criminal record.

Countries such as the Netherlands and Australia, which have decriminalized marijuana, find that rates of use are surprisingly low. They are certainly far lower than in the United States. In fact, in the Netherlands, rates of use went down. People attributed that in part to the demythologizing of the drug. There are, therefore, a number of savings.

In the Netherlands and Australia, the main finding was that it separates out the hard drug market from the soft drug market. That is our concern. In Toronto, it is easier to buy crack cocaine than it is to buy marijuana. This is why countries have taken this route, to try to separate out those markets so kids are not in the position of being lured by the harder drugs when the soft ones are much less harmful to them.

That is all allowable under the international treaties. I think Glenn Gilmour would like to address that.

Mr. Glenn Gilmour, Barrister and Solicitor, Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy: I would like to make a couple points about the international treaties in addition to what has already been said. You have already heard some testimony about the situation in Australia and directions for reform that have taken place there. For example, a major feasibility study on providing heroin to dependent heroin users in the Australian Capital Territory was recently finished. It lasted about four years. At the present time, the legislature of the Australian Capital Territory is hearing submissions as to whether to proceed with such a trial.

The interesting question is whether they can do that, since Australia is a signatory to both the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs and the 1988 convention against trafficking, both of which conventions Canada has signed. Their conclusion, with which other scholars agree, is that they can. That conclusion is based on the fact that the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs makes specific exception for the use, manufacture and possession of narcotics for a medical or scientific purpose. These trials are set up within the context of carefully controlled studies to determine whether the health of dependent drug users will be improved by allowing them to be injected with heroin. Therefore, it naturally falls within the exemption provided by the 1961 convention.

The 1988 convention, as part of its definition of offences, builds in the requirement that it is an offence where contrary to the 1961 convention. It builds the definition of the 1961 convention into the 1988 one.

To give you a brief idea of some of the other effects of the convention, the actual offence-creation section regarding personal use and consumption of the 1988 convention reads as follows:

Subject to its constitutional principles and the basic concepts of its legal system -

- note the qualification -

- each Party shall adopt such measures as may be necessary to establish as a criminal offence under its domestic law, when committed intentionally, the possession, purchase or cultivation of narcotic drugs or substances for personal consumption contrary to the provisions of the 1961 Convention...

Note the different qualifications that are put into that offence-creating provision. It must be subject to the constitutional principles of the country and the basic concepts of its legal system. As well, as I mentioned before, it builds in that it must be contrary to the 1961 convention. Therefore, you have to go back to the 1961 convention and see what the 1961 convention would penalize.

In addition, as Benedikt has already mentioned, with regard to this personal consumption offence, article 3(4)(d) of the 1988 convention specifies that:

The Parties may provide, either as an alternative to conviction or punishment, or in addition to conviction or punishment...measures for the treatment, education, aftercare, rehabilitation or social reintegration of the offender.

It has been mentioned that in some states and jurisdictions of Australia, there have been laws created which, in effect, decriminalize simple possession of marihuana. These basically take the form of fines. The person is given a ticket and can pay the fine. In the material which has been provided is a letter from the federal attorney general's department of Australia discussing decriminalization and legalization of drugs. In its examination of the 1988 and 1961 conventions, the letter makes this point under "General conclusion":

In relevant respects, the requirements of the 1961 and 1988 Conventions with respect to `personal consumption' conduct are not significantly different:

both require the elimination of all possession/use (outside certain specified exceptions) -

Again I emphasize the exceptions I mentioned earlier.

neither therefore permits `legalization' of personal consumption;

both are aimed particularly at `trafficking' conduct;

neither requires criminal proceedings for personal consumption.

The letter goes on to state:

Beyond the conclusion expressed in paragraph 3 above, it does not seem necessary to consider implications of the two Conventions for hypothetical future policy options. However, it might be noted that under both of them there is a wide freedom for a party with respect to the government-controlled use of drugs for medical purposes....A concrete example of one policy approach is the present law in South Australia providing the option of an `expiation fee' rather than prosecution for a `simple cannabis offence' (as defined). In the Department's view that approach is consistent with both Conventions.

So the position of the federal attorney general's department of the Commonwealth of Australia is that these fine expiation programs in existence in some parts of Australia are perfectly consistent with the conventions.

As I mentioned before, the creation of feasibility studies to determine whether heroin should be provided to heroin users within the context of a carefully controlled medical provision would fall within the exemption under the 1961 convention.

The Australian government, along with other states, is currently undergoing a major study of cannabis law and cannabis reform. In 1994, they published a report, along with a number of monographs, on issues such as the effect of the international conventions. They briefly pointed out that there were a number of different interpretations of these conventions. They include total prohibition, where you criminalize; the civil penalties approach, the fine expiation program I just explained in South Australia; partial prohibition, in other words focusing on prohibiting trafficking but not having any penalties, civil or criminal, for simple use and possession; and government-controlled regulation within the context of a reasonably broad medical and scientific purpose.

The only thing which seemed to be definitely ruled out by the conventions was legalization, in other words, complete deregulation of the conduct. As we have said, that is not something that we support.

Senator Doyle: What you have been saying reminds us that there are jurisdictions that have been acting in a way that I would call consistent with the representations of the Le Dain report, but we had the Le Dain report before many of these other jurisdictions were off the mark.

What has happened here? Why have we stayed, as we have, with our orthodox approaches to law breaking in every way, with only mild doses of humanitarian change? Incidentally, if you are inclined to blame it all on us and on the other place, we have been probably even bolder than public opinion would suggest we should be. So what is it that has held us back?

Mr. Oscapella: Senator Doyle, it depends how machiavellian you want your conspiracy theories to be. Certainly, the lack of public education about these issues is very important. Most people, I am sure, think of people who use heroin frequently, for example, as violent people. Heroin does not make you violent, but I am sure that the common Canadian perception of someone who uses drugs is someone who is about to become a dope fiend. A classic film called Reefer Madness came out in the 1930s which helped to foster this myth. We have long had these sort of witch-hunts.

You can look at this as a form of chemical McCarthyism. That was the term adopted by someone writing in the American Medical Association Journal in the late 1970s. I agree with it entirely. It is a McCarthyist type of witch-hunt. That is not to say there are not honest people within government and outside government who believe that the drug laws as they stand are the way to go. Although I disagree with them strongly, I am not questioning everyone's motives in this. Many people honestly think prohibition is the appropriate way to go.

However, American pressure is driving international drug policy. They are on a witch-hunt right now. I cannot describe it as anything other than that. It is being used as an excuse. It is easy to blame everything in the ghettos of American cities on drugs, but in fact the real problems are lack of social opportunity, lack of employment opportunities, lack of educational opportunities, and racism. It is very easy to set up this bogeyman of drugs, but that will never solve the drug problem.

There are vested interests which we must acknowledge. A Norwegian criminologist wrote a book called Crime Control as Industry. There is a huge prison-building industry in the United States. People are making money building prisons. People are making money enslaving their fellow citizens. To me, this is no better than the slavery of 200 years ago, because a dispro- portionate share of those incarcerated in the United States are blacks and Latinos. There is a financial interest.

I believe that many police officers believe they are doing the appropriate thing, but there are also people who know that it is their job. I have spoken to prosecutors who prosecute these sorts of offences. They say, "It is a waste of time, but it is my job." They are saying, "It pays my mortgage, so I am willing to throw people in jail."

There are people who honestly believe that prohibition is the way to go. That is why we are trying to educate people and give them what we consider to be realistic evidence, so that they will see that prohibition is not the only way to go. There are so many factors at play.

Senator Carstairs: I agree completely that we need to have a comprehensive review of drug policy in this country, and I agree with the four guidelines that you have established; public health, rational pharmacology, cost effectiveness and a review of the criminal law.

However, my dilemma is that this is not the committee in which to do this. We have neither the resources nor the time. In the last couple of months, this committee has dealt with gun control, the Pearson airport, electoral boundaries and sentencing.

Let us be practical for a moment. The government has suggested that two things will happen: There will be a review of substance abuse, and there will also be a panel of experts put together to make some sense of the scheduling, which I think we all agree is a nightmare at the present time.

What are the alternatives for those of us sitting around this table? It seems to me that we have three: We can amend the bill and then pass it; we can defeat it, at which point we have the status quo, which I do not think is an enhancement from your perspective; or we can pass it as it is.

Put yourself in our circumstance for a moment and tell us in very practical terms what you would have this committee do.

Mr. Fischer: I see that dilemma. I myself wondered how members of this committee would deal with that. I am not sure whether we have the answers for that.

You realize that there is a problematic situation and that Canadian drug policy is not going the way you want it to go. You realize that at the present time, the Narcotic Control Act is dominating this policy. If you will pass Bill C-7, it will be at the centre of prohibitionist drug policy in this country. Bill C-7 will give the government the basis to continue prohibition policy. The question is what you as lawmakers can do about this.

As you said, if you defeat the bill or do not pass it, we have the status quo. On the other hand, this would be a clear signal to the government that it has not done its job properly, that it has not done its homework and must go back to the drawing board and decide how drug control law should look in keeping with the principles of rational, pragmatic and effective drug policy that we want.

I personally doubt that, through amendment, you can improve the situation significantly and fundamentally, although I would prefer pragmatic amendments to simply passing the bill the way it is. I think that rejecting the bill is the most honest and pragmatic response to the situation. The second choice would be to pass a number of fundamental amendments. The bill in its present form, is fundamentally flawed and I do not believe that through it long-term, fundamental changes to Canadian policy can be implemented.

Senator Lewis: On that point, both Houses of Parliament have now agreed with the principle of this bill. This is what leads to the dilemma to which Senator Carstairs referred.

Senator DeWare: Senator Lewis is saying that when a bill is given second reading, it means that we agree with it in principle, although we can do whatever we like after that. I imagine you knew that.

Mr. Oscapella: We are not that well versed in the procedures of the Senate, but I would hope that you are not in a position of having to commit for all eternity to these sorts of measures.

There could be some amendments. Decriminalizing marijuana would obviously decrease the number of arrests. However, that would not resolve the huge problem of the impact of prohibitionist laws on the spread of AIDS, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. It would not solve the problem of organized crime, drug-related violence and those sorts of things.

If I were confident that there would be a truly honest reassessment, and not a loaded reassessment, I would put great faith in a committee. However, we do not know who would sit on such a committee or how it would be structured. As I said, if it were the same people who have devised our drug policies to date, who have proved remarkably inflexible, we would be just spinning our wheels.

Mr. Fischer: It would not make a lot of sense to have a policy review after this bill is passed. Policy has been confirmed if this bill is passed. If you want a reasonable and comprehensive policy review, this bill should be put on hold until a policy review has reassessed the situation and reassessed the role of the criminal law in drug policy in Canada. Then, based on the evidence from such review, it would make sense to go back to the bill and see what is right and what is wrong about it. If you pass this bill the way it stands right now, there will be no need for a policy review because policy will be in place. This bill is Canadian drug policy. The policy is prohibition.

Senator Carstairs: That policy is already in place, as you know. This bill does not significantly change the policy one way or the other.

I have a request for you. I should like you to give us, in written form, a list of practical amendments that could be made to this bill that you think could enhance it. If you cannot do that, simply send us a recommendation to defeat the bill. It is fine to talk theoretically, as we have today, about what we hope will happen in the future, and I too hope that many of those things will happen in the future. However, I must put my practical legislative hat on for a moment and say, "I have a bill to deal with, and I want to know how to deal specifically with this bill." If you can provide us with that, it would be very useful.

Mr. Oscapella: Senator Carstairs, we will.

The Chairman: That is a fair request. You improve the bill or kill the bill.

Senator Losier-Cool: Like Senator Carstairs, I was expecting something more from the Canadian Foundation on Drug Policy than simply rejecting the bill. If you can give us some guidelines, that will be appreciated.

However, I did not appreciate one comment that was made, and I am sure that many grade 9 and 10 students would not have appreciated hearing you say that students do not care. They do care about themselves. They do care about using drugs. As a high school teacher for 25 years, I know that they do care.

Mr. Fischer: I was trying to say they do not care about the severity of the law. They do care very much about themselves.

Senator Losier-Cool: I think they care about the severity of the law, also.

Dr. Riley spoke about drug users being afraid to seek help because of fear they would be picked up by the police. Have either of the two lawyers here ever defended someone who was seeking help when they were picked up by the police?

Mr. Oscapella: Senator, my entire career, since I was called to the bar in 1980, has involved legislative and social policy. I have not been in a courtroom for 15 years now.

Mr. Gilmour: It is the same for me.

Mr. Oscapella: We work in the field of public policy. Perhaps Mr. Kellerman from the Law Union of Ontario, who appeared before the committee yesterday, could have spoken to that question more effectively. I hope you do not consider that that undermines our credibility. I believe that the issues as social policy advocates are still very profound.

I do not defend drug clients on a daily basis. I meet such people through my work because I attend conferences where people are HIV positive and that sort of thing.

Senator Losier-Cool: I understand that, but you must meet lawyers as well.

Dr. Riley, did I understood you correctly?

Ms Riley: Yes. I have gained that knowledge through working directly with people who come to see me, either for therapy or simply to talk because I am involved with drug-user groups in Toronto and elsewhere and with self-help groups and advocacy groups, and also through my experience in setting up syringe exchanges in Toronto in the mid 1980s.

Police will pick up the people doing the exchange, such as myself, as well as the users, and break their syringes or remove them, even if they are clean. Users will be picked up with dirty syringes and that will be used as an excuse to take them in for interrogation. Depending on the amount of drug in the syringe, that can lead to other things.

The point is that people are being harassed with regard to carrying syringes, which makes it difficult for them to go to a syringe exchange. We want them to take their used needles there to get them off the streets.

Another concern is that police watch places such drop-in centres. They watch who comes and goes and they follow them. People are, therefore, reluctant to use them. There was a time when police were recording licence plate numbers seen around certain agencies as well. That was battled in the courts.

There is the sense that, because these people are criminals, they are often carrying drugs. Many of them are homeless so they have nowhere to leave their drugs and syringes. As an alternative, they use shooting galleries which are much more unhealthy because there they get used syringes and the quality of the drug is not guaranteed.

In the Netherlands and the U.K., people are able to go openly to the police station and ask for help. There they are given syringes and taken to services. They are given materials to help them and they are counselled to become registered. It is the difference between an open and caring attitude and a closed one. That can be changed very quickly through education.

Senator Pearson: I agree that there is need for an in-depth reassessment. I agree with Senator Carstairs that we need some practical suggestions, because ours is a legislative role. Of course, anyone who hears what you have to say must be interested in the whole context of what is happening with respect to drugs.

I am almost old enough to remember the prohibition of alcohol. Therefore, although I would not say that there are flaws in your reasoning, there may be some weaknesses in it. The fact that alcohol is not prohibited does not mean that we do not bear an enormous cost for both alcohol addiction and violence associated with alcohol, nor has it prevented a huge amount of money being invested in the production of alcohol.

We must realise that these proposed changes will not cure the whole situation. It reminds me a bit of that wonderful line in West Side Story:

Gee, Officer Krupke, I'm depraved on account of I'm deprived.

There are very complicated reasons behind drug addiction.

We had many discussions about deterrence with regard to youth when we were studying the Young Offenders Act. We realized that there are problems with deterrence in terms of the young mind.

In this area, we are not really talking about the law as deterrence; we are talking about death. Do these people not know that they will get HIV? Why are they not deterred by that?

Mr. Fischer: The principle of deterrence is based on the fundamental assumption that a rational being can sit back and think, "I have choices here. What will I choose to do? Will I choose to use heroin this afternoon, or will I choose not to use heroin this afternoon?" That is the assumption.

Senator Pearson: I understand that. If you change the laws and make things easier in some ways and less criminalized, some people will still kill themselves. This is the perfect example. This is death, yet they are not deterred.

Ms Riley: Some of the cases in the overdose data from British Columbia and Ontario would be suicides. But in most cases, these are first-time users, or first-time users of drugs of this particular purity, and the overdose is accidental. It is like you or I drinking a glass of liquor and not knowing what proof it is. It could be any range.

Senator Pearson: I understand that. I am thinking about AIDS.

Ms Riley: With AIDS there are a number of issues. With the young, very often there is a sense of, "It cannot possibly get me." Very often, needle-sharing occurs with a close friend or lover, which may be construed as a sign of trust. There is much education needed there.

But most often, the sharing of syringes occurs because clean syringes are not available. They need the fix so badly that the other issues get pushed to the back of their minds.

Very often, these people, especially the street kids, say: "Do you think I care whether I get AIDS? That means that maybe I will die in ten years. I will be dead in three years anyway because I have nothing to eat; I am beaten up every day; I am kicked around by the police; I have no hope of a job."

That is their reality. HIV is only one thing which may eventually get them; there are many things which can get them tomorrow. That is the mentality. Part of it is the magical thinking that it will not be them. Another is the lack of caring because there are so many other things to worry about.

Senator Pearson: Your answer refers to an issue which is much larger than what we are dealing with here. Whatever we do here will have a smaller impact than what needs to be done for these kids.

Ms Riley: Yes, but ensuring that they get clean syringes is a major step which has been proven worldwide to keep HIV rates down.

We must give them not only treatment but service and caring, especially with regard to law enforcement. The successful programs, especially those in Merseyside and the U.K. in general, contain several ingredients, including prescription of drugs. That is the formula for low HIV rates, low black market levels and a much more caring and comfortable society.

Senator Pearson: Have you yet met with the Ontario government?

Mr. Oscapella: No.

Senator Milne: I appreciated your points. They are very valuable.

Mr. Gilmour, could you give me a bit more information on Australia's policy. Is it a general policy across Australia, or is it different in different parts of Australia? How do they deal with trafficking as compared to possession?

Mr. Gilmour: There are two jurisdictions in Australia which have fine expiation programs with regard to possession of small amounts of cannabis. Australia, unlike Canada, does not have a uniform criminal law system. The penal law varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, trafficking is still a crime basically throughout Australia. However, with regard to cannabis use, for example, there is a movement at the national level to look at the cannabis laws in effect throughout the country and to determine whether a direction should be followed other than criminalization.

That process continues at this time. The report I mentioned earlier was one of a national task force which is now doing further research in that area.

I mentioned the long-term study in the Australian Capital Territory of the feasibility of the heroin trial. The parliament of the Australian Capital Territory is in the process of determining whether to continue with that.

Ms Riley: With regard to the decriminalization of marijuana, the fine system is now followed in a number of states and has been very successful. As Glenn mentioned, that is now being considered at the national level. Also, people are being allowed to grow their own, which addresses the issue of trafficking.

The issue of the heroin trial in Australia has been held up because Tasmania is a producer of opium and Johnson and Johnson has threatened that if the heroin trial is allowed, it will stop buying its opium from Australia.

That is one more example of how, at the international level, U.S. prohibitionist policies affect what can be done throughout the world.

Senator Milne: In your formulation of a more specific recommendation, I ask you to keep in mind that if the Senate defeats Bill C-7, there may well be no legislative will whatsoever either to review the situation or to bring in another law.

Senator Doyle: Was that a threat?

Senator Milne: No. I am simply saying that there will, after all, be an election sometime in the future, and who would want to be talking about legalizing drugs just before an election?

Senator Doyle: If you give us a list of recommendations, I hope that you will include some guidelines on how to avoid the fate of the Le Dain Commission.

Mr. Oscapella: We will certainly try, senator.

Senator DeWare: We are talking about children and people on drugs. What about those in the school system who are not on drugs? All the anti-smoking propaganda has affected many of our young people. They are not smoking and they are advising adults not to smoke. Seat-belt legislation has been successful because of the education program that went along with it.

Why can we not show the young children in the school system what the results could be if they smoke marijuana? Would it not be effective to scare them at the lowest level?

Ms Riley: I have been involved with that area for some time. Scare tactics do not seem to work. In fact, kids often find those ads quite amusing. They try marijuana and find that it does not fry their brains, and that makes them think that everything else is lies.

A few countries are beginning education in kindergarten about substances in general; not on a moral plane but in terms of what it does to your body, your family and so, and they work up from there. It is called harm reduction education. They provide very basic facts, especially about legal drugs. It shows kids the dangers of alcohol. A number of us are involved in the push to get warning labels on alcohol bottles.

It is a balanced approach to provide the kids with the knowledge and the means to assist them to change their behaviour. This is working well.

Programs such as the DARE program in the Unites States, which we have here to some extent, have been evaluated by the University of California and several other large evaluation centres and found to be seriously wanting. They are low in efficacy and just do not provide the kids with ammunition for the real world.

Senator Carstairs: With regard to alcohol training in the school system, in my experience one of the most effective approaches was responsibility for one another. In my generation, there was no such thing as a designated driver. However, among those in their twenties now, a designated driver is a very common thing.

The Chairman: I wish to thank you very much for your presentation and all of your answers. I understand that you will send a list of amendments to our clerk.

Mr. Oscapella: Yes, we will.

The Chairman: I thank you in advance for that.

The committee adjourned.

Updated: 24 Jul 2001 | Accessed: 31586 times